Soup season is here, and the Southerner in me cannot wait for endless bowls of hearty beans. This navy bean soup, simmered low and slow with a smoky ham hock, is definitely on the list of yummy things to consume as much as possible.
If you’d like to make your soup creamier, mash some of the beans with a potato masher or fork against the inside of the pot. You can also scoop out a small portion, run it through a blender, then return the blended beans to simmer a little more. And, of course, taking a few swipes through the pot with an immersion or hand blender works as well.
What are Navy Beans?
Other popular white beans you may see in your grocery store besides navy beans are cannellini, baby limas, and Great Northerns. Navy beans, aka pea beans, are the smallest of the four, and therefore cook more quickly. They are also milder in flavor and get super creamy as they simmer.
To make this navy bean soup vegetarian, omit the ham; replace the chicken stock with veggie stock; increase your carrots and celery or add additional vegetables, such as parsnips or celery root; and replace the simmering ham hock with a Parmesan cheese rind.
Navy Bean Soup
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 pound dried navy beans
- 4 cups hot water
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8 ounces thick-cut cooked ham
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 smoked ham hock (optional)
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Rinse the navy beans and remove and discard split, broken, or discolored beans. Place the beans and hot water in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove the pot from heat. Cover and let soak for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, finely chop the onion (1 1/2 to 2 cups), carrot (1/2 cup), and celery stalk (1/2 cup). Finely chop the garlic cloves. Dice the ham (1 cup).
When the beans are done soaking, pour through a colander to drain. Wipe the pot clean.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the ham, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, kosher salt, dried thyme, and dried rosemary. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the beans and stir to combine. If desired, nestle the smoked ham hock into the bean mixture. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes.
Remove the ham hock. Add the unsalted butter and stir until melted. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed.
The ham hock adds a subtle smokiness to the soup. If using, cut away any meat from the bone after simmering and stir it into the soup.
To soak the beans overnight, rinse the beans and discard any broken or discolored pieces. Place in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, then add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight, and continue with the recipe the next day, skipping the quick boil and soak in the first step.
Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week. To freeze navy bean soup, let the soup cool completely, then freeze in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw the soup in the fridge overnight before reheating on the stovetop.